You know those Magic Bars with the layers of graham cracker crumbs, chocolate, butterscotch, coconut and nuts all held together with a can of sweetened condensed milk? These are like those only amped up for the holidays! Here, instead of that can of milk, an easy-to-make cranberry jam holds everything together. Cranberries, pecans, chocolate, coconut = a truly happy Thanksgiving!!
I'm all for pies during this time of year and especially on Thanksgiving day, but sometimes it's nice to have a seasonal alternative that is not only easy to make and individually portioned but easy to transport too. That's where these bars come in. I actually made them last year and wanted to blog about them but for some reason or another they got lost in the shuffle. I was scrolling through old photos a couple of days ago, saw them and the rest is history...
You start by making an easy pecan, butter, graham cracker base.
Then you top it with a homemade cranberry jam that's just the right balance of tart and sweet and spread it on top of the graham layer.
Next comes coconut and toasted pecans
And finally, the love of my life--chocolate chunks.
The whole thing bakes up in about 20 minutes and leaves you with gooey, rich but not overly sweet bars. Put these out next to the pumpkin pie and watch them disappear...like the "magic bars" that they are!!
Cranberry Chocolate Layer Bars
Makes about 16 squares
Prep Time: Under 1 hour (much of this is hands-free)
- 9 graham crackers
- 3/4 cup (82 grams) pecans, toasted and chopped, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 cups fresh or thawed cranberries
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1. Make sure rack in in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick vegetable spray. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
2. Place the graham crackers (break them into pieces a bit), 1/4 cup of the pecans and the 3 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the cooled butter and pulse until fine crumbs form.
3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer, using the bottom of a measuring cup to help press down the mixture so it gets evenly distributed, especially into the corners. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center seems dry. Leave the oven on and transfer the crust to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
4. While the crust is baking, make the cranberry jam. Place the berries, orange juice and 1/2 cup sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let the mixture continue to boil for about 8-10 minutes, stirring now and then, until it has reduced to about 1 cup and has the consistency of jam.
5. Pour over the cooled crust and spread out evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining pecans and the coconut, gently pressing them into the jam. Then sprinkle the chocolate over the top evenly and press the pieces down a bit too.
6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the coconut is golden brown. Remove and let cool on a wire rack until completely cool. Use the parchment paper to pull the "cake" onto a cutting board and cut into squares. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Note: Recipe adapted from Better Baking by Genevieve Ko. I upped the chocolate amount a bit (naturally!).